The mayor’s order directs Atlanta’s chief equity officer to develop and implement a plan within the city’s authority to mitigate the effect of the state law, known as SB 202, that’s brought nationwide condemnation for significantly rolling back voting access and information, specifically in Black and brown communities.
“The voting restrictions of SB 202 will disproportionately impact Atlanta residents ― particularly in communities of color and other minority groups,” Bottoms said in a statement. “This Administrative Order is designed to do what those in the majority of the state legislature did not ― expand access to our right to vote.”
Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia’s GOP-controlled state legislature passed the law just weeks ago, implementing a wave of election rules that appear to target the very voters who contributed to record turnout on Election Day and in January’s special elections for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats, which turned the state blue.
The law attempts to block such a result from happening again by basing the changes on the false guise of voter fraud that didn’t actually occur. The legislation reduces the time when voters can request absentee ballots, implements new photo ID requirements and criminalizes giving food and water to voters waiting in line at precincts.
The city’s proposals include training staff on how to educate residents on voter registration and early, absentee and in-person voting. The city will also work to make sure Atlantans know how to obtain the ID forms now required for absentee voting.
City departments will also include QR codes or website links in mailings such as water bills to provide links to voter registration and absentee ballot information. The hope, according to Bottoms, is that any city staff member will be able to give important voting information to Atlanta residents.
“We’re also going to have to really continue to educate and encourage people to stand in the gap for voters across this state who may not have the ability to cast a vote, meaning we can’t go and vote for the president and then wait an additional four years,” Bottoms told Axios Re:cap on Tuesday, adding that Georgia’s situation is a “cautionary tale to other cities and states.”
“We’ve got to show up each and every time in record numbers because there will be some people who won’t have access to their absentee ballots, who won’t be able to turn their ballots in on time,” the mayor added. “We’ve got to stand in the gap for those folks and make a difference in this state.”
The Georgia law has drawn criticism from civil rights groups, Democrats and dozens of businesses and executives. Republicans in support of blocking people’s right to vote are blaming “cancel culture” while corporate giants speak out against the law and Major League Baseball moves its summer All-Star Game out of Georgia.
“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected,” Bottoms tweeted Friday. “Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.”
In her executive order, Bottoms stressed that she wants to work with corporate and community partners to create and implement public service announcements, as well as other forms of communication, to provide clarity to Atlanta residents on new voting deadlines and timelines.